ThinkAnalytics bags new Astro OTT deal, eyes Tribe ace for full house

UK recommendations software specialist ThinkAnalytics has landed an extension deal for its deployment at Malaysian pay TV operator Astro this week, to roll out its engine on NJOI Now – Astro’s new and completely free OTT service.

ThinkAnalytics is on the cusp of bagging a full house now at Astro, building on its initial deployment on Astro’s pay TV DTH platform in June 2016, followed by the Astro Go TV Everywhere service in January this year – leaving just the mobile-first OTT service Tribe to make it a clean sweep. However, a source close to the matter told Faultline Online Reporter that the latest deal does in fact include Tribe – but that a deployment date is still to be confirmed.

There could be a number of factors as to why ThinkAnalytics’ software has taken this long to prove itself worthy of Tribe since the service launched in March 2016, while its other deployments at Astro have been comparatively rapid.

One initial issue could be that Astro’s partner in the venture, Indonesian telco XL Axiata, took some convincing that the investment would be worth it. This is something we find hard to envisage, given ThinkAnalytics’ track record – claiming that over 70% of viewing on both Astro’s Go and DTH services is driven by ThinkAnalytics’ content recommendations.

Given the somewhat fragmented OTT video operations of XL Axiata, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly which vendors the telco has worked with, but it doesn’t seem to be using a rival recommendations engine – in which case the path has been clear for ThinkAnalytics to swoop in and there may have been different reasons for XL holding back.

Also, unlike Astro’s other of offerings, Tribe is available in multiple countries, first launching in Malaysia and Indonesia before extending to the Philippines. Perhaps the companies have hit road blocks when testing out the deployment of a recommendations system covering multiple languages and accommodating for differing content rights. Or maybe it has just taken longer to get right.

To this end, ThinkAnalytics says it has developed machine learning and predictive analytics for deployment at Astro, to cover four languages. It tracks viewing behavior including individual preferences, topical trends and social channels.

Astro’s new NJOI Now service is a free live and VoD streaming service available to anyone in Malaysia on mobile devices and PCs – offering live sports, news, plus 2,200 movies and series.

This is essentially the OTT version of Astro’s free satellite TV service NJOI which offers 28 TV channels for no subscription fee, but has an upfront installation cost of $64. There are over 30 million internet users in Malaysia, around 70% of the population, who can now stream NJOI content completely free and most will already have their own personal devices, while the remaining 30% are covered via satellite. We presume all revenues come from advertising.

In comparison, Tribe costs the equivalent of around $2 a month, with a focus on Korean content and regional movies, as well as the inclusion of live sports content from Fox Sports. Astro Go, recently rebranded from Astro on the Go, is its TV Everywhere service available to existing subscribers for $5.60 a month, but it also offers packages to non-subscribers for $1 a day, or around $8 a month.

Tribe joint owner XL Axiata also offers three streaming services, so both companies certainly have multiple bases covered, whereas overseas operators are terrified of launching a single standalone service, let alone three, through fear of cannibalizing their traditional pay TV subscriber base.

We hold a sort of admiration for players in Asia Pacific markets for conducting business like this, and would go as far as to call some audacious for embarking on multiple OTT ventures in the face of slipping subscriber bases and declining ARPU.

Astro says Go has been downloaded 3.6 million times and has 1.3 million registered users. Tribe figures haven’t been made public, but our Asia Pacific OTT report shows Tribe at 3.2 million subscribers, forecast to more than double to 6.5 million by 2021.

ThinkAnalytics Founder and CTO, Peter Docherty, said, “Astro’s approach to offering personalized viewing on any screen is proving to be incredibly successful and is reflected in its growing customer base. Our search and recommendations engine gives customers like Astro a fast return on investment. It not only boosts the number of channels viewed, but also increases overall weekly viewing times and is demonstrated to positively impact customer loyalty.”

Astro COO, Liew Swee Lin, said, “Since we went live with ThinkAnalytics on our DTH platform and Astro Go app we have seen a huge uptick in viewing. We expect the ThinkAnalytics platform to have the same positive impact on NJOI that it’s had on DTH and Astro Go.”